By Alan Neff
Okay, you’ve circled your neck with fabric. The Necktie Game is afoot. Now what do you do?
When I have to wear a necktie, I opt for one of two commonly used knots – the “four-in-hand” or the “full Windsor.”
For more information than you can ever use on them, here are their basic Wikipedia pages: here and here. Yes, tie-knots have their own Wikipedia pages. We live in interesting times. Soon, perhaps, these knots will have altars and small gods to whom one must make daily sacrifices.
In geometric terms, the four-in-hand is an asymmetric quadrilateral: the top and bottom are roughly or actually parallel, with one vertical side shorter than the other. The full Windsor is a symmetric quadrilateral, parallel at the top and bottom, with vertical sides of equal length.
As you can see from the diagrams on these Wikipedia pages, tying the-four-in-hand knot is a four-step process. (There’s a coincidence.) The full Windsor (aka “the double Windsor”) is either a seven- or ten-step process. Two inferences flow from this: (1) you’re likely to master the four-in-hand more easily; and (2) you’re going to use less turns of fabric in the four-in-hand knot, so it’s better suited to shorter ties.
Yes, ties come in different lengths. You’ll want to be careful to purchase ties of lengths that match your upper body and have enough, but not too much, fabric for the knot(s) you intend to use. As a smaller person, I’m particularly aware of this. I’ve unknowingly – all right, negligently – purchased ties that left me with too much fabric after whichever knot I used. I don’t look good with a tie hanging to my knees.
As your tie is supposed to reach only to your belt when knotted up to your neck, ties that end up noticeably longer or shorter bespeak a certain inattention to detail or incompetence in knotting. Also, you can look gormless behind a tie of the wrong length for your torso.
Which knot should you use? My attention span is pretty short these days, so I generally opt for the four-step four-in-hand. It is entirely acceptable and commonly used in the workplace.
I like the Windsor, though. Yesterday, in the office, I used a Windsor knot. As its page points out, the full Windsor doesn’t slip, so your tie does not unintentionally acquire the look of low-hanging-fruit. On the other hand, James Bond didn’t like what the Windsor knot signified about its wearer: “It was tied with a Windsor knot. Bond mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot. It showed too much vanity. It was often the mark of a cad.” – From Russia With Love.
“…it was often the mark of a cad.” That’s a phrase I don’t read everyday.
Generally, keep in mind what I mentioned in the last post: a coarser/thicker fabric will produce a larger knot. A Windsor knot in a tie of thicker/coarser fabric will be larger than I’d like a knot to be. For heavier fabrics, use a four-in-hand. For lighter fabrics, use a Windsor.
The diagrams on the Wikipedia pages are helpful, but here are videos that take you through the entire process:
For the four-in-hand:
In the first of these four-in-hand videos, the demonstrator does not button his collar before proceeding. In the second, he does. I don’t button before knotting. Buttoning the collar after tying the knot saves me a few precious seconds from the low-intensity strangulation associated with wearing these stupid things. It doesn’t seem to make any noticeable difference in the finished knot, either.
Here are the same two demonstrators tying the Windsor knot:
Accordingly to the narrator of the latter video, the Windsor is “the Don of all knots.” Does he mean the Windsor is the Don Knotts of knots? Who can tell?
As Image Granted and I agreed in our comments on my previous necktie post, size the knot to the space between the points of your collar. Bigger space, bigger knot; smaller space, smaller. Aim to get a bit of visible fabric between the collar points on either side of the knot, maybe about a half inch on either side.
So…practice, and you’ll master the knot(s) you want to use. You’ll get your tie to end at your belt-buckle, and all will be right in that small corner of your world.